9/11 Photo Essay

Showcases the recycling of World Trade Center steel in memorials around the U.S. Photos of memorials begin on slide four.

Every once in awhile in late summer/early fall the weather is so beautiful here in the Northeast that it reminds me of the picture perfect weather in New York City on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I’ve told my 9/11 story at my old blog, but the upshot is that I lived in New York but several miles (or 40 minutes by train) from the site, was waiting to start a job the following week that unknowingly turned out to be directly related to post-9/11 recovery, was awoken that day by a phone call from my soon-to-be-stepmom in Boston that my dad was ok (I didn’t know he’d been in Lower Manhattan that morning on business), ended up driving to the Amtrak station in mid afternoon to see if my dad was safe there (we knew he’d made it out of downtown but weren’t quite sure where he was), that the drive down took me an unheard of 15 minutes because the streets were so empty, that the drive home took almost an hour because what traffic existed was headed up and away from the disaster and out of town, that the line to donate blood at the blood bank near my apartment stretched around the block, and that I was in shorts and a “Minnesota” t-shirt all day because the weather was. so. beautiful. Except for the smoke curdling up into the sky several miles away. I watched coverage until the wee hours of the morning and then slept one of the deepest sleeps I can remember in my life, so much so that when I woke on September 12 it took me a minute before I remembered the world had changed the day before.

My new job turned out to be small business recovery consulting in Lower Manhattan, and I worked several blocks from the site for two years, forming intense friendships with my co-workers in the “trenches” of post-9/11 Lower Manhattan. I didn’t know anyone personally who was killed, but there was a degree or two of separation from others who’d lost loved ones. For the first two anniversaries after the attacks my office gave us an optional personal day, and on the first anniversary we had an in-house memorial service where our President/executive leadership led us in singing “We Shall Overcome.” It was moving and surreal.

Tears in the office – mine, small business owners’, co-workers – were not uncommon. I worried as government funding ran out and grant-making decisions were not in business owners’ favor that the more irate would violently storm into our unlocked offices downtown. This never happened, but it was an often contentious and emotional environment – with sadness, joy, gratitude, anger, frustration, resolve and hopefulness all on display.

Lower Manhattan is a different neighborhood now. It’s more residential, more affluent, and awash in construction activity – all helpfully delineated with large orange signs and carefully spelled out in Bloomberg’s signature style. I was so glad to get out in 2004 – out of post-9/11 recovery work and the city – but I miss New York and I miss my life there. Sometimes it feels as if I’m just waiting to get back.

My thoughts are with those who lost family and friends here and abroad on September 11, 2001, and in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed. My heart also goes out to survivors of the attacks in NYC and DC, and those still feeling the effects of witnessing the attacks live or on tv, and those living with the aftermath, such as the countless immigrants of color who have been detained in the U.S. since 9/11 (immigrant detentions have risen 300% since that day). This is a deliberately long and political tribute/memoriam list, as we live today in a post-9/11 world, and the post-traumatic, socioeconomic, and geopolitical effects are more profound and diffuse than we often remember.


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